20 July 2011

Summer Heats Too Early Top 10

Rarely do the final college football polls ever resemble anything remotely similar to those all too early summer rankings. Who will be this years champ when the final whistle sounds? Will it be finally be someone not from the SEC? Or will it be some form of conference repeat? Until the games are played out it's often anyone's best estimate. Here's how the view from the other side of the lake saw things.

1-Alabama is poised for another run at the national title. All the necessary ingredients seem to be set in place. The offensive trenches return four out of five starters. The defense welcomes back nine of eleven starters that ranked #3 nationally holding teams to a stingy 13.5 points a game. Even the schedule looks inviting having Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU all at home.

2-Oklahoma has 9 of 11 offensive starters back in the fold for another run at the title including the dangerous combo of junior quarterback (and Sammy Baugh winner) Landry Jones and senior consensus All American widout Ryan Broyles. The sooner offense averaged 481 yards a matchup while the passing game ranked 3rd nationally. The SEC national championship winning streak has certainly got to come to an end soon. The sooners certainly have the capability to do just that.

3-Oregon returns the key components of last years top ranked explosive offense centered around juniors signal caller Darron Thomas and Heisman Trophy finalist in tailback LaMichael James. On the other side of the ball the ducks last season allowed opponents only 4.7 yards per play (11th best nationally). Yes, they might only return five defensive starters but Oregon also played a heavy rotation likely due to the pace of their style of play. The ducks won't have time to rest as its biggest test may lie straight out of the gates when play travel to LSU to open the season.

4-LSU finished with an 11-2 record despite an offense ranked 11th in the SEC triggering a change in offensive coordinators. Steve Kragthorpe was brought in to help restore the offensive swagger for the tigers which begins with a three year starter under center. Senior Jordan Jefferson returns as the winningest active SEC quarterback with a 20-7 record. Definately not too shabby to work with. Four out of the five offensive line starters are back. The defense ranked 3rd in the SEC and good enough for 12th overall. The tools are in the shed. Its just a matter of process in getting things done. Tests include Oregon at home and on the road against Alabama.

5-FSU and their decision to place Jimbo Fisher at the coaching helm is looking rather solid now revitalizing 'nole nation after successfully guiding the seminoles to 10-4 season (first 10 win season in 7 years) including a 26-17 Chick-fil-A victory over South Carolina. In fact, FSU still looks sound enough to likely grab the ACC title and a BCS bowl berth despite losing Christian Ponder to the next level. Plenty of talent and skill return for the fans to start practicing the tomahawk chop once again.

6-South Carolina returns two of its most explosive weapons in sophomore sensation tailback Marcus Lattimore and junior wideout Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore certainly looked like anything but a freshman in 2010 amassing 1197 yards and 17 TDs. Jeffery also compiled a more than respectable 1517 yards and 9 TDs. Despite the uncertainty at quarterback South Carolina learned how to win and make some serious noise in both the SEC and in the nation.

7-Oklahoma State has arguably the nations top aerial assault combination returning that dropped an average of 44 points a game on the scoreboard. Senior quarterback Brandon Weeden (who turned his back on the NFL) connected on over 4200 passing yards and 34 TDs with Justin Blackmon who racked up nearly 1800 receiving yards and 20 TDs. Last season the cowboys defense ranked 11th nationally in the TO margin but allowed over 26 points a game.

8-Nebraska could be entering the Big12 at the right time. Consider that Michigan is rebuilding under Hoke. Ohio State is scrambling dealing with the whole tattoo situation. Penn State isn't completely solidified in its quarterback situation. And so on. Thus the huskers certainly could make some noise. And yes, even the defense last season ranked 11th nationally. Could the huskers biggest challenge be the team chemistry? Coach Bo Pellini overhauled his staff with four new coaches. Should be interesting how all the pieces fall into place and somehow mesh together.

9-Texas A/M on paper looks strong to challenge BIG12 supremacy with possibly the best squad the aggies have fielded in more than a decade. The aggies return 9 starters from an offense that averaged nearly 442 yards. They know how to put points on the board averaging 31 led by a trio of seniors in QB Ryan Tannehill, TB Cyrus Gray (200 carries, 1133 yards and 12 TDs), and wideout Jeff Fuller (72 receptions, 1066 yards and 12 TDs). Yes, the aggies might have lost Von Miller but return (9 starters) enough talent from a defense that allowed opponents only 21 points.

10-Notre Dame finished strong last season winning its last 4 including a 33-17 waxing of the hurricanes in the Sun Bowl. Can they keep the momentum rolling? A sense of optimism surely would be prevalent with 16 of 22 starters available. The irish have a capable wideout in senior Michael Floyd who returns with 1025 receiving yards and 12 TDs. Notre Dame's defense was led by Manti Te'o with 133 tackles (most by an irish in 27 years). Those final 4 games the "D" only allowed an average of 9.75 points per game (which included Utah, Army, USC and Miami).

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